Thursday, September 14, 2006

University of Puget Sound President Ronald Thomas Talks About Race Without Saying Anything

Ronald R. Thomas is president of the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, has an Op Ed piece in the Seattle Times about race and education. His point seems to be that "people of color" are left behind when it comes to education. He specifically states that:
It's September and time to go back to school for many Americans. But not for others. The likelihood of a student of color completing college in most states is about half of what it is for whites. In some states, the odds are twice as bad. Clearly, in the race for education, too many of us are caught behind the color line.

My first question... "But not for others." Is that really a sentence? Not sure, I am just a blogger typing in my pajamas, not the President of a University.

While he may very well have a point that students of color complete college at half the rate of whites, I know if you take a look at the demographics of the University of Washington and compare those to the demographics of Seattle, King County and the State of Washington, "students of color", if anything are over represented in the U.W. student body... if of course you include Asians as students of color. The education / racism crowd never seems to want to include Asians as part of the students of color group. Now UPS does not break out its student population by race, and I am guessing there is a good reason for that. The closest they have is this page which list a total enrollment of 2785 students, of those, a grand total of 449 are "ethnic and minority". So in a state that is 18% minority, a county, Pierce, that is 22% minority and a city, Tacoma that is 31% minority, UPS has an enrollment that is 16% minority.

What really bothers me about the op-ed is the lack of anything resembling a solution. In fact there is not even any real finger pointing to a cause. The closest he comes is in the last two paragraphs:
How do we get from the conditions of today's reality to the content of the dream? We will not do it by not thinking about race. Our only hope is to think about it very hard, to learn about it as much as we can, to become more conscious about how and what we teach about race every day.

Teaching and learning make up the art and science that is at the heart of our mission as educators, and the contested subject of race provides an urgent opportunity for us to teach and to learn something fundamental about ourselves as Americans. And if we take it seriously enough, it offers the prospect of doing something constructive about it, too. It's time for all of us to go back to school.

So if we all just think very hard and learn as much as we can, that is the solution? Not sure I buy that. How about this, why don't we connect the dots between kids that are raised in one parent families and kids with low academic performance? For the most part I am not talking about kids of divorced parents but rather kids born out of wedlock who for all practical purposes do not know one parent, most likely the father. It is easy enough to go to the Seattle Public School test main page and look at the demographic numbers of students "not living with both parents" and compare that percent to test scores and see a relationship.

It is not the amount of pigment in your skin, it is not the amount of money in your bank account, it is about having parents, plural, that make sure you get to school, who make sure you do your homework when you get home from school, who go to your parent teacher conference and PTA meetings and talk with the teacher on a regular basis. As soon as President Thomas realizes this fact and spends a little more time working on keeping families together and spends a little less time thinking very hard about racism, the sooner we can get that minority enrollment percentage at the University of Puget Sound a little closer to the demographic it is suppose to serve.

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